Updated: 18 May, 2008
The quest for gold goes deep
By Charles Kubach, Mine-Engineer.Com
18 May, 2008

Gold is becoming increasingly difficult and expensive to find on land, so a company called Nautilus Minerals has joined forces with a leading dredging company, Jan de Nul to build ocean mining ships to mine high grade seafloor ores of sulfide deposits located near old undersea volcano vents that are rich in copper and gold.

Currently, they have plans to put their first operation in Papu New Guinea, and have applied for permits and are currently undertaking a Environmental Impact Study for the operation. Their schedule calls for mining to begin sometime in 2009. The ocean is 4, 600 feet deep in this area.

The mining extractor was described by Nautilus as "a large, abrasive vacuum cleaner". Technically it will consist of a rotating cutter head and a large suction tube to transport the mined material to the surface. Jan de Nul, one of the largest dredge building firms in the world, will build the mining ship and accompanying barges to be used in the operation. It is expected to cost $160,000,000 to put the floating mine in place and another $36,000,000 to operate it each year.

One primary advantage of mining these deep sea deposits is they are considerable higher grade than current surface deposits, so less material will have to be mined to produce a ton of metal. This will also result in lower costs. This shows that the creativity and technical capabilities of the engineers and mining professionals can adapt to a changing environment and find minerals needed by society for well into the future. There is also no doubt that a host of tree hugger organizations will oppose this and any mining operation on illusory grounds that it will somehow harm the environment, although they do not have a single scientific fact as to how this may occur.

Good luck to Nautilus and Jan de Nul, and may the permit process be expedient.

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